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Fantasy Football Snap Count: RB Edition

Fantasy Football Snap Count

NFL players can’t score fantasy points if they aren’t on the field, so this weekly article will provide impressions by analyzing snap count percentages[1]. Fantasy football is all about opportunity, and the NFL players having higher snap counts have a higher probability of scoring lots of fantasy points. I provide fantasy football snap count numbers here with some context and impressions to help you make fantasy transactions and gain an edge on your competition. Be sure to also read TFA’s Target Analysis and Rapid Reactions articles to see the full picture of all the week’s action.

Fantasy Football Snap Count Numbers and Reactions

Arizona
RB1 David Johnson 87%
RB2 Chase Edmonds 11%

As expected, David Johnson is the clear workhorse here. Kingsbury’s new offense has Johnson heavily involved in both the running game and the passing game. Edmunds merely provided the occasional breather for Johnson (Chase Edmonds only received one carry in essentially a 5 quarter game), so Edmond’s snap count is essentially negligible.

Atlanta
RB1 Devonta Freeman 50%
RB2 Ito Smith 50%

Atlanta’s running game looks like a landmine. Week 1’s snap count numbers are likely skewed because the coaching staff may have been punishing Freeman for fumbling. That said, Ito Smith received almost half the work as well as half the snaps (8 carries for Freeman, 6 for Smith; 4 targets for Freeman, 1 target for Smith). This is a backfield to monitor in terms of opportunity, but the offensive line in Atlanta looks like the bigger issue for Freeman’s production than Smith’s involvement. I would not be picking up or targeting Ito Smith, by the way.

Baltimore
RB1 Mark Ingram 32%
RB2 Gus Edwards 38%
RB3 Justice Hill 30%

In a game that was over after the first quarter, we probably shouldn’t read into these numbers too much. Clearly, all three backs will get work, so Ingram’s upside is somewhat capped. That said, he was the clear goal-line back in this game (scoring on both attempts). Gus Edwards was involved from the start, so hold Ingram for now, but consider moving Ingram for a more established starter later in the year. Justice Hill will also likely be involved, but probably not to this extent. I am guessing his involvement depended on being up nearly 40 points at halftime.

Buffalo
RB1 Frank Gore 28%
RB2 Devin Singletary 70%
RB3 TJ Yeldon 3%

Devin Singletary owners are frustrated to see Frank Gore get 11 carries to Singletary’s 4, especially when Gore was horribly inefficient with his 11 carries (1.8 ypc) while Singletary was super-humanly efficient with his 4 carries (17.5 ypc!!!). However, the snap count numbers should give Singletary owners a lot of hope. Gore may continue to annoyingly get early down work, but Singletary is playing more snaps and playing in obvious passing downs (Buffalo was losing for most of this game). As such, Singletary, not TJ Yeldon as many worried, is the best PPR back to own in this backfield. I would be buying Singletary everywhere, if I didn’t already own him in every league.

Carolina
RB1 Christian McCaffery 100%
RB2 Jordan Scarlett 7%

So much for the “McCaffery will see fewer snaps” narrative. Norv Turner never takes his RB1 off the field, especially one as dynamic as McCaffery. McCaffery is poised to finish the year as the RB1.

Chicago
RB1 David Montgomery 38%
RB2 Mike Davis 56%
RB3 Tarik Cohen 70%

Oh boy… Mike Davis is really a thing. While technically Montgomery got one more carry than Davis, Davis received significantly more receiving work (6 targets to 1). This looks like a true split for now. Meanwhile, Cohen is essentially a full-time wide receiver. Cohen didn’t receive a single carry in the game (8 targets). Cohen isn’t competing with Davis and Montgomery for playing time because he is frequently on the field at the same time as either Davis or Montgomery, so those who drafted Cohen should feel fine, especially in PPR leagues. Hopefully, in a positive game script, Montgomery will receive more work, but for now, Montgomery is not the workhorse RB that he was drafted to be.

Cincinnati
RB1 Giovani Bernard 62%
RB2 Joe Mixon 38%
RB3 Samaje Perine 1%

Joe Mixon got hurt but dominated snaps before the injury. Bernard is the clear backup to Mixon, yet again. Monitor Mixon’s health, but he should resume his role as the workhorse when healthy. Bernard looks like a workhorse whenever Mixon misses a game. Mixon owners would be smart to pick up Bernard where available.

Cleveland
RB1 Nick Chubb 70%
RB2 Dontrell Hilliard 18%
RB3 D’Ernest Johnson 12%

Week 1 confirmed that Nick Chubb is a workhorse, and he will likely remain that way until Kareem Hunt’s suspension ends.

Dallas
RB1 Ezekiel Elliott 54%
RB2 Tony Pollard 32%

These snap counts might scare Elliott’s owners, but these snap count numbers can be explained by Zeke missing all of training camp. The Cowboy’s game plan was to ease him back in, so these numbers are not indicative of a timeshare moving forward. Week 2’s numbers will likely be more informative and should confirm that Zeke is still a workhorse. Nothing to see here for now, and I am still starting Zeke with confidence moving forward.

Denver
RB1 Phillip Lindsay 53%
RB2 Royce Freeman 47%
RB3 Devontae Booker 2%

Denver continues to be a true time-share between Lindsay and Freeman with Linsday still having the slight edge. Booker’s involvement was negligible. Booker’s lack of involvement indicates that Booker will not stealing passing down work from these two players, especially because the Broncos were losing for almost the whole game. Still, Denver’s offense looked rough last night under Joe Flacco, so you might want to consider trying to sell Lindsay if you can sell him high.

Detroit
RB1 Kerryon Johnson 57%
RB2 CJ Anderson 30%
RB3 Ty Johnson 9%

Yikes. Kerryon Johnson’s snap counts are not indicative of his second round draft cost. CJ Anderson was and will continue to be involved, and both Ty Johnson and JD McKissic were also involved on obvious passing downs. For now, it does not appear that Kerryon has assumed the RB targets vacated by Theo Riddick. Kerryon still looks more explosive than any other back on the team, but the Lions seem determined to again give carries to an inefficient, bruiser-type running back (ala Lagarrette Blount last season).

Green Bay
RB1 Aaron Jones 59%
RB2 Jamaal Williams 41%

Like Kerryon Johnson, Aaron Jones appears locked into a timeshare as well, but Jones dominated in carries (13 to 5). The Bears’ strong defense may have dictated this snap count, so let’s not panic on this one.

Houston
RB1 Duke Johnson 63%
RB2 Carlos Hyde 37%

Interestingly, Duke Johnson dominated in snaps even though Hyde lead in carries (10 to 9). Duke Johnson is still the back you want to own, but Houston’s offense runs through DeShaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. This is a pass first offense, so it’s possible that neither back will be particularly useful. Hopefully, Johnson continues to receive targets (5 targets in week 1), but I anticipate that Watson will continue to throw the ball down the field, primarily to WRs.

Indianapolis
RB1 Marlon Mack 76%
RB2 Nyheim Hines 27%

Mack is the clear starter here, and Hines is merely a passing downs specialist (4 targets for Hines, 0 for Mack). Consider selling super high on Mack due to the lack of passing volume even though he dominated in snaps. In non-PPR, Mack has more value because the Indianapolis offensive line is very strong.

Jacksonville
RB1 Leonard Fournette 86%
RB2 Ryquell Armstead 14%

Fournette remains the undoubted workhorse and basically doesn’t come off the field. Armstead is nothing more than a handcuff for now, but he is a high-ceiling handcuff due to Jacksonville’s preference to primarily use only one back.

Kansas City
RB1 Damien Williams 65%
RB2 LeSean McCoy 30%
RB3 Darwin Thompson 3%

These numbers are a good sign for Damien Williams owners, but take them with a grain of salt. McCoy has only been with KC for a week and is likely unfamiliar with KC’s pass-blocking schemes and route running. I am very interested to see if McCoy’s snap count numbers increase next week. What we can learn from this week’s numbers is that McCoy’s presence has rendered Darwin Thompson irrelevant. You should drop him in all non-keeper leagues.

LA Chargers
RB1 Austin Ekeler 75%
RB2 Justin Jackson 25%

Despite the rumors of a split backfield, Ekeler dominated in snaps. He was far more efficient in the passing game and was the back that the team leaned on when the game was on the line. Jackson is essentially a handcuff now, but both will lose value if Melvin Gordon returns in week 6, as is now rumored. Ekeler should maintain some value when Melvin returns if Ekeler continues to have performances like this. Hold Ekeler, but you can drop Jackson.

LA Rams
RB1 Todd Gurley 70%
RB2 Malcolm Brown 27%
RB3 Darrell Henderson 3%

Many Gurley owners are panicking after Malcolm Brown vultured two touchdowns. But, these snap numbers are very reassuring, even if they aren’t close to the 90% snap share he had last year. Week 1 shows us that Gurley will, in fact, be used less than he was in 2017 and 2018 (pre-injury). The Rams strategy appeared to give Malcolm Brown every third drive. Both his touchdowns came during drives where he was on the field for the entire drive. Brown does not appear to be the “goal-line back”, he just happened to be on the field during scoring drives. TDs for Gurley will come. Equally important, Gurley was the back receiving carries when the game was on the line – he is the clear backfield leader. Don’t tilt too hard, Gurley owners!

Darrell Henderson is not the backup or the handcuff; it’s Malcolm Brown. I’d move on from Henderson as he appears to merely be this year’s version of John Kelley.

Miami
RB1 Kenyon Drake 54%
RB2 Kalen Ballage 40%
RB3 Mark Walton 8%

Despite Ballage being named the “starter” and receiving the first hand-off of the game, Drake led in snaps. Miami was losing big the entire game, so Drake’s snap count likely reflects the score of the game. Either way, the Dolphins look horrible, and I wouldn’t start any player from the Dolphins. Ballage is droppable, Drake might be too.

Minnesota
RB1 Dalvin Cook 68%
RB2 Alexander Mattison 23%
RB3 Ameer Abdullah 8%

Dalvin Cook is the clear workhorse in Minnesota. The Vikings were in complete control for the entire game. Mattison’s snap share likely reflects Minnesota’s utter defensive domination, but Mattison will have some role. That said, I still view Mattison as merely a handcuff, and Cook owners should be very happy with their investment.

New England
RB1 Sony Michel 33%
RB2 James White 47%
RB3 Rex Burkhead 46%

Oh, what to make of New England… This was a strange game with Sony Michel dominating carries (15 carries, next closest was Burkhead with 8) but being horribly inefficient with those carries (14 total yards) even in a game dominated by the Patriots. Sony is shaking off some rust, and better days are likely ahead – maybe as soon as next week, when the Patriots play the hapless Dolphins.

New Orleans
RB1 Alvin Kamara 76%
RB2 Latavius Murray 27%

Kamara is a stud and basically doesn’t come off the field. Murray will continue to receive touches, and appears to be the goal-line back. Both backs will be valuable due to the strength of the Saints offense. Also, I’d imagine that Murray’s snap count will increase in more positive game scripts, which a strong team like the Saints should see frequently in 2019.

NY Giants
RB1 Saquon Barkley 80%
RB2 Wayne Gallman 20%
RB3 Elijhaa Penny 9%

Saquon is great and clearly a workhorse. Gallman got some late game work after the Cowboys were way ahead. If the game was close, I would guess that Barkley’s snap count would have been closer to 100%. Just understand that the Giants are real bad, and this might happen frequently.

NY Jets
RB1 Le’Veon Bell 100%
RB2 Ty Montgomery 7%
RB3 Trenton Cannon 1%

Lev never came off the field. Gase is amazingly using him as a true workhorse. I still think Montgomery has a role in this offense, perhaps in negative game scripts. But for now, Bell owners feel good about their first round investment.

RB1 Josh Jacobs 74%
RB2 Jalen Richard 16%
RB3 DeAndre Washington 9%

These numbers are good news for Jacobs owners – Gruden sees him as a workhorse that he was drafted to be. Richard will suck away an occasional reception, but Jacobs was on the field for plenty of passing plays even though he only got 1 target. Oakland was in control for most of this game, so his passing work wasn’t eye-popping. We will have to see what happens when Oakland actually has to play from behind. Playing from behind might mean a lot of Richard. However, for now, nobody is taking running work away from Jacobs.

Philadelphia
RB1 Miles Sanders 48%
RB2 Jordan Howard 23%
RB3 Darren Sproles 31%

Unfortunately, Philly remains a three-headed monster in the backfield. In other words, the snap count numbers reveal that drafting a second round running back has not changed Doug Peterson’s backfield committee preference. That said, Sanders is still the clear leader here, and might get more work as his pass blocking improves. Perhaps most telling, Jordan Howard has barely any involvement. If Sanders continues to perform well, much of Howard’s 23% of the snaps might be given to Mile Sanders. See if you can buy really low on Sanders; it’s worth an offer!

Pittsburgh
RB1 James Conner 46%
RB2 Jaylen Samuels 33%

In a game where the Patriots absolutely destroyed Pittsburgh, neither running back really established himself. Pittsburgh threw a lot, but a severely negative game script dictated this strategy. That said, Conner was not the full-time player he was in early 2018, and Jaylen Samuels clearly has a role in both the passing game and the running game. Let’s continue to monitor this backfield to review some data gathered when the Steelers aren’t losing by over 20 for nearly an entire game.

Seattle
RB1 Chris Carson 77%
RB2 Rashaad Penny 26%

Carson is the clear leader in this backfield, and importantly, has a big role in the passing game (6 catches on 7 targets!). Penny should only be considered for a starting lineup spot in super deep leagues.

San Francisco
RB1 Matt Breida 44%
RB2 Raheem Mostert 29%
RB3 Tevin Coleman 26%

These numbers are skewed due to Coleman’s injury. Before his injury, it looked like close to a 50-50 split between Breida and Coleman. Now, Brieda assumes the clear starter role, and Raheem Mostert stands to receive some carries in Coleman’s absence. Breida looks like a solid starter for the foreseeable future.

Tampa Bay
RB1 Peyton Barber 36%
RB2 Ronald Jones 31%
RB3 Dare Ogunbowale 39%

This teams appears to be a true committee with all three backs having roles and involvement. None of these backs looks particularly appealing, but Jones appear to be, at least against a mediocre SF defense, the most explosive runner. Ogunbowale leads the passing duties, so he could have some PPR value, but not much. Jameis Winston’s struggles infected the entire offense in this game. Perhaps Bruce Arians can work his magic quickly, but for now, I don’t love any of these backs.

Tennesee
RB1 Derrick Henry 59%
RB2 Dion Lewis 43%

Don’t get too excited about Derrick Henry’s 75 receiving yards – he gained all those yards on his only target. Lewis is still the clear passing-down back. Henry’s numbers are likely inflated due to the Titans absolutely manhandling the Browns. Henry’s best fantasy days occur in positive game scripts. Perhaps the Titans are better than advertised, and Henry will continue to see the field 60% of the time, but until the Titans start dominating consistently, I am still apprehensive about Henry’s upside.

Washington
RB1 Derrius Guice 36%
RB2 Chris Thompson 64%

Guice was hurt in this game, so Adrian Peterson again steps in. Thompson is a back to pick up because Washington projects to be in a lot of negative game scripts, thereby demanding that pass catchers be on the field.

Biggest Takeaways

  • Devin Singletary is the back to own in Buffalo because his explosiveness and versatility have rendered TJ Yeldon irrelevant.
  • Todd Gurley dominated snaps even though Malcolm Brown scored two touchdowns. Don’t panic!
  • The Lions are a true timeshare, and Kerryon Johnson’s ceiling is much lower than many expected.
  • LeSean McCoy has not supplanted Damien Williams’ passing involvement… yet. But, McCoy’s presence has rendered Darwin Thompson fantasy irrelevant.
  • Adam Gase is not standing in the way of Le’Veon Bell’s success – Bell had a 100% snap count in week 1. Good sign!
  • Philly remains a 3-back committee, for now. Sproles isn’t going away, but Howard might. See if you can buy Miles Sanders really cheap from a nervous owner.
  • Chris Carson is very involved, especially in the passing game. He should maintain a snap count over 70% while healthy.
  • Matt Breida looks like a solid fantasy starter for the foreseeable future.

[1] All snap percentages from https://www.lineups.com/nfl/snap-counts/running-back-rb-snap-counts

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